Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Moldy oils, invasive sunchokes and other stories

Just so you don't think it's all fairy dust, all the time ..

As much as I love sunchokes (aka jerusalem artichokes) - for example they were very tasty indeed in last night's spicy coconut milk chicken dish, simmered for over an hour, alongside carrots and new potatoes - last week I became positively irate about how much of the garden they had taken over.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Garbling the echinacea, and why you should try your hand at it too.

I have read so many different takes on harvesting and using this plant. Use 5 yr. old plants, only. Use Purpurea only, or Augustfolia only. Yes, you can use other cultivars; no you can't. Yes you can use the leaves and flowers or even the seeds; no you can't. Use the rhizomes only; use the little roots; don't use the little roots .. damn it, if I was waiting for consensus I would never use this plant. You know what I think when I see so many opinions? Go with your gut. So here's how I garbled my echinacea plants today; how you do yours is entirely up to you.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Garbling the mullein

I love this time of year.

We're not quite in autumn weather yet, but here and there one early scarlet or golden tree stands out on the green hills. We're hearing a few geese gathering on the river below us where they chat all night long. They sound like people from a distance. The nannyberries are ripening, too. So we're getting close.

The purple ones are the ripe ones. There's not much to a nannyberry (Viburnam lentago) but they're a great little nibble. (Don't believe what you may read on the internet about slicing them or putting them in smoothies. If you meet one in person you'll see how silly a notion that is.) They're maybe the size of an egg shaped blueberry and half their volume is a nice flat stone that's fun to kinda 'worry around' in the mouth while wandering down a gravel road. The taste is oddly reminiscent of banana.

Meanwhile on the ground the herbaceous perennials and the first year biennials are putting on a rush of growth. Mullein is looking like it is getting ready for bed in its flannel pyjamas.

This first year mullein rosette is a good 2 ft across. Those ratty leaves nearby are a pathetic, slug-eaten comfrey. 

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Messing about with wild grapes (with bonus mini-rant)

Down at the bottom of the yard where the land drops off abruptly to what we call the 'ravine', the wild grape vines go high up into the trees. In spring time the flowers on those vines emit the fragrance of heaven. Some years, like this year, a heavy frost wipes them out; but wild grapes are undaunted. They simply bloom again.

We feared it was but a tease, that second wave of heaven scent. The actual vineyards of the region were declaring disaster, surely the wild ones couldn't produce fruit if the coddled wine grapes couldn't, right? But when the birds started carousing in a particular tree a few days ago, Paul (my husband) (lover of all things grape) (and all around good guy) crashed that party - and he came back with favours!

Half a bucket-o-joy!

Much to our surprise, these wild grapes are not the usual tiny mouth-puckeringly sour variety that we usually find back there, but as near-as-dammit to concords as we've ever seen. A little smaller, mind you, and still somewhat puckery, but juicy, oh are they juicy!

Friday, 11 September 2015

Speaking of eyebright

We do a lot of stopping at the side of the road on our rambles.

Paul (my husband) (and photographer) (and all around good guy) has developed an interesting knack for stopping the car right next to patches of eyebright growing at the roadside. It's quite by accident, yet it just keeps happening.

Very tricky stuff to get a pic of, eyebright.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

How to use herbal tinctures

First, let's establish the why. Why a tincture instead of some other preparation? As mentioned in a previous post here the reasons do vary. In some cases the parts of the herb we want are alcohol soluble more than water soluble. In other cases, we are limiting exposure to (but not eliminating) unpleasant tastes.

In my own case, I'm afraid tinctures are often the only way I can store the medicine plants for future use. Ever more humid summers are meaning I have difficulty drying them, and so I resort more often now to tinctures, vinegars and oils. (I never use a dehydrator, I find them too hot.)

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Life on the edge

Today seems to be a woodpecker day. I could hear one really digging into a tree somewhere while I was hanging the laundry. Not the ratatat-tat of a bird declaring his territory but the purposeful chiselling/chopping sound of one that's found a good food source.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

What's in a mouthwash?

If we're talking commercial mouthwash, then sometimes, some very nasty things indeed. Bottom line, in this household if can we replace a commercial product with something home made (and home grown), that's what we do. That's the subject of today's post.

Mouthwash may or may not even be necessary to good oral health, but let's face it, a lot of people enjoy how it feels.